Changing Model Years: North American Car and Truck of the Year Finalists

2017 Genesis G90

The Los Angeles Auto Show opens to the public this weekend after three days of well-attended press events and unveilings. This week’s debuting AutoMobility LA conference also featured presentations from a wide variety of industry experts and CEOs addressing the futures of the auto business, driving, mobility, and ownership, and kicked off a competition among ten promising auto startups. The car business is never boring, and we know 2017 promises plenty of excitement, there and elsewhere.

The L.A. show effectively kicks off a new model year, but it also sort of wraps up the current one. On AutoMobiltity LA’s first morning, the field of 2017 North American Car and Truck of the Year nominees was narrowed from 30 to 9 finalists. Judged by a group of 60 journalists from magazine, TV, radio, newspaper, and online auto publishers in the U.S. and Canada, the NACTOY awards honor excellence in innovation, design, performance, safety, technology, driver satisfaction, and value.

Winners will get announced in January at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show, but this year’s list of nominees is bigger than ever thanks to the now separate Utility category, and based on the vehicles we’ve already reviewed, selecting winners won’t be easy. Here’s a quick look at those nine NACTOY finalists: three cars, three trucks, and three utilities.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

The L.A. Show features plenty of new alternative-fuel vehicles, one of the more important of which is the first car finalist, the Chevrolet Bolt. Boasting an EPA-rated range of 238 miles from its all-electric system, the probably-just-under-$30K-after-incentives Bolt should hit the market by early next year if not sooner, giving it a decent chunk of time to try to take sales from Tesla’s upcoming Model 3, which should also offer a 200-plus-mile range at a similar price and has already racked up hundreds of thousands of online orders, but won’t arrive until at least “late 2017.”

Genesis G90

The Genesis G90 uses a traditional gas powertrain, but still marks a big automaker bet, as it’s the debut of the new luxury marque named for the formerly budget-focused Hyundai’s first luxury model, the 2009 Genesis. The Genesis G90’s interior and safety features impressed George Kennedy, but we’ll have to wait and see whether a new Korean car can take a meaningful slice of the luxury market enjoyed by the German makers. Either way, congratulations to Hyundai for launching a new brand with a NACTOY finalist.

2017 Volvo S90

We got a little drive time in a Volvo S90 at IMPA’s Test Days last month, but don’t have a full review yet, though we have reviewed the Volvo XC90, which also features an extensive selection of safety and driver-assistance features. We’re still pretty uncomfortable with the idea of “self-driving” cars, but we love the S90’s interior and the commitment to safety Volvo has made with its Vision 2020 policy.

2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty

One of our reviewers has a Ford F-250 Super Duty this week, and we look forward to publishing his review in the near future. Incorporating the aluminum body panels that caused an uproar when they were announced for the ’15 F-150 and a new around-view camera system as well as a stronger frame and suspension using more high-strength steel than past versions, the new Super Duty trucks also get upgraded interiors with Sync 3 and a new transmission tweaked for towing with the 6.2-liter gas V8.

2017 Honda Ridgeline

The Honda Ridgeline has little in common with the traditional American-made pickups that have dominated the full-size truck segment for decades, but as those trucks have grown too big for many garages and city parking spaces, automakers have tried a number of alternatives. The Ridgeline doesn’t offer the 4-door cab option so popular on American roads, but it does offer the most car-like ride of any vehicle with a flat bed in back (other than an El Camino) and a versatile two-way tailgate. Cliff Atiyeh appreciates its flexibility, calling it “an open-face minivan.”

2017 Nissan Titan

The new Nissan Titan aims to serve a wider range of buyers than ever with more luxurious interiors, a new gas engine, more trims, and its first 3-passenger regular cab trims ever. The burly XD trim level that debuted last year gets a stronger frame to better compete with heavy-duty American trucks, and a new gas V8 measures 5.6 liters and puts out 390 horsepower and 394 lb-ft of torque. A new V6 for single-cab trims and a king-cab version should arrive later in the model year, but details haven’t been released.

2017 Chrysler Pacfica

Minivans fall into the debuting Utilities category, where the Chrysler Pacifica earned a finalist spot. Aiming for the cutting edge of the minivan market, the Pacifica offers an incredibly versatile, flexible interior for people and cargo, plenty of tech and connectivity as well as a dual-screen Uconnect Theater for second-row occupants, and a more modern, sleek profile than both competitors and previous Chrysler offerings. George Kennedy loved its look and cargo capabilities, and we’re curious as to whether the Pacifica’s upcoming first-ever hybrid minivan trim will help it start to fill the retired Grand Caravan‘s sizable shoes.

2017 Jaguar F-PACE

Cliff Atiyeh found the Jaguar F-Pace a stunningly strong debut SUV. With a great look outside and in and a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 or a 2.0-liter turbodiesel inline four under the hood, it will be interesting to see if the F-Pace can effectively compete with proven products from Porsche, Audi, and BMW. The F-Pace’s ride and handling apparently will reward enthusiasts, and it also features Jaguar’s recently extended 5-year/60,000-mile warranty, so we hope it will get the attention it deserves.

2016 Mazda CX-9

The Mazda CX-9 recently took top prize in the full-size CUV segment at the Texas Auto Writer Association’s annual Texas Truck Rodeo in addition to having been named a NACTOY finalist. That’s not surprising given Mazda’s success over the last few years, especially with the CX-5. George Kennedy loves the CX-9’s quiet, plush interior and enjoyed its torquey turbo four with a full-acceleration notch in the gas pedal, noting that it delivers a very luxurious large SUV for non-luxury money.

Which 2017 vehicle would you call car of the year?

–Steve Halloran

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New Genesis G90
New Volvo S90
New Ford F-250 Super Duty
New Honda Ridgeline
New Nissan Titan
New Chrysler Pacifica
New Jaguar F-Pace
New Mazda CX-9

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